ON Tuesday, this week, THE GUARDIAN newspaper’s YOUTHSPEAK backpage column, carried a piece by a youth corps member, Anyiam Nnaemeka, serving in Zamfara state. It is a very instructive read.
At a time when dead-ender, old ethnic chauvinists never cease to threaten us with warfare; breakup of our country and worse; old people who enjoyed the best the nation ever could have given, but who are no longer relevant in the scheme of things.
The young man serving in Zamfara state kept an open mind about his posting, after the initial scare, constructed out of ignorance and prejudice, to discover the humanity of the people of the community within which he has been posted to serve.
Not for him the crude prejudices that reign all over our country today; the posturing for advantage across vicious divides and the profiling of the OTHER; Anyiam experienced and connected with the humanity of the people of Zamfara state.
I will like to quote this young Nigerian extensively because he was really so honest in his observation: “serving in Zamfara has afforded me a lot of opportunities I would not have had if I remained down South in the East. At least I have experienced Zamfara for myself and can now separate fact from fiction. Zamfara is peaceful and friendly.
You’re appreciated as a corper. Living here is affordable, food is abundant, the sharia is not harmful, there’s fun in Zamfara…I’ve seen their religious practice and I can compare with mine. I’ve seen their flaws and I now know how I can help. I’ve understood that you don’t stand far off and make up convoluted stories about people. Come closer, live among them and friends, you’ll be amazed at how much you did not know.
But more importantly, I’ve seen that we are all the same Nigerians and can exist as one; you as a Christian, I as a Muslim and life will go on. Our cultural and religious differences are simply variety which we all know is the spice of life. There’s really no need for the hate”.
For Zamfara, you could substitute with any other Nigerian state, North or South, and Anyiam Nnaemeka, could very well be Bashar or Adeleye or Bassey. Young people are posted around the country, away from their homes, and in the process discover the shared citizenship and humanity upon which we can build our country.
These young people defeat the concerted effort by many elements to de-legitimise our country, using the “tribal warfare” mindset that belong in Antiquity. The din of this effort at de-legitimisation was very high in the wake of the killings which followed the April 2011 elections when some youth corps members were tragically killed in Bauchi state.
They agitated for weeks to end national service but two years down the line, Anyiam Nnaemeka and other young people are defeating the forces of national disintegration. Nigeria is going through a lot of crises today, but it is a nation with tremendous possibilities for development and liberation.